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Art History Graduate Schools in the U.S.

Students with a graduate degree in art history often pursue careers in the fine arts, such as curation or teaching. Factors to consider when choosing a graduate school for art history include available degrees, specialization areas, scheduling flexibility and program requirements.

How to Select a Graduate School for Art History

Students seeking graduate-level study in art history can find programs at colleges of art and design as well as general 4-year colleges and universities.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Degree level
  • Time commitments
  • Program funding
  • Concentration options
  • School location

Degree Level

Graduate programs in art history may culminate in a Master of Arts (M.A.) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Choosing the right level and title of a degree is important for those seeking an education in art history. A master's degree is typically needed to work as a museum curator or conservator, while a Ph.D. may be appropriate for students who wish to teach at the university level or conduct independent research.

Time Commitments

Program length and scheduling may be a factor when selecting an art history graduate school. Earning a doctorate takes longer than achieving a master's degree in this field and usually requires full-time enrollment.

Program Funding

Program funding may be another consideration. Some graduate programs may offer funding through research or teaching assistantships.

Concentration Options

Those considering graduate programs in art history may base their decision on available concentrations. Some schools offer specialization areas in American art and architecture, pre-Columbian art, renaissance art and modern art. Students may want to consider options for interdisciplinary study; for example, a student studying Islamic art may want to go to a school that has strong departments for studying Islamic history, religion or Arabic. Most programs require students to be proficient in one or two languages relevant to their area of study, so students should be sure that the school they select has courses in appropriate languages.

School Location

A school's location can be important for art history students. Throughout a program, students may make excursions to museums and historical sites to gain a more in-depth understanding of subjects. Schools located in large cities or cultural centers may provide access to museums and great works of art, and may afford greater career opportunities in their field. A graduate school with a strong study abroad program may be of interest to students who desire to see historical works of art in foreign countries.

Art History Graduate School Program Overviews

M.A. in Art History

An M.A. in Art History typically takes two years of full-time study, but could take up to four years of part-time study to complete. In addition to coursework requirements, students are required to complete a master's thesis. Some programs may require or provide credit for internships or practicums. A bachelor's degree and GRE scores are required for admission to an M.A. program. Master's degree students take courses such as:

  • Art criticism and theory
  • Modern and contemporary art history
  • Ancient art
  • Asian art
  • Renaissance art

Ph.D. in Art History

Ph.D. programs typically consist of coursework and research. Coursework usually takes two years to complete, includes a foreign language requirement and is followed by a qualifying exam or paper. The next 2-3 years are spent researching and writing the dissertation. Admission criteria for the programs vary, with some Ph.D. in Art History programs requiring students to already hold a master's degree in a subject directly relevant to art history and others allowing students with only bachelor's degrees to enroll. Doctoral students may complete coursework in areas such as:

  • Japanese art
  • Globalization and art
  • Visual culture and the Civil War

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